WATCH THE SERIES: A Chinese Ghost Story

Based on a short story about Nie Xiaoqian from Qing dynasty writer Pu Songling’s Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio and inspired by the 1960 Shaw Brothers movie The Enchanting ShadowA Chinee Ghost Story inspired more than just two sequels, an animated film, a television series and a 2011 remake. It also created an entire genre of folklore ghost stories.

Its director, Ching Siu-tung, studied in the Eastern Drama Academy and trained in Northern Style Kung Fu for seven years. His father, Ching Gong, was a Shaw Brothers director. While producer Tsui Hark got most of the credit for these films, Siu-tung has done well for himself, also directing The Swordsman series of movies and choreographing House of Flying Daggers and Shaolin Soccer.

In the first film, tax collector Ning Choi-san (Leslie Cheung) fails at his job and must sleep in a deserted temple. There, he falls in love with Nip Siu-sin (Joey Wong), yet discovers in the morning that she is a ghost forever enslaved to a tree demoness. When Ning tries to save her and fails, her soul goes to the underworld.

This film is a gorgeous meditation on unrequited love. Even with the help of Taoist priest Yin Chik-ha (Wu Ma), the best our hero can do is secure a better afterlife for his one true love.

1990’s A Chinese Ghost Story II starts with Ning and Yin parting ways, with Ning heading back to his hometown that has been overrun with cannibals. After being jailed and condemned to die, an ancient scholar reveals that he has dug an escape tunnel. He gives Ning a book and a pendant, then shows him the way to freedom.

In this film, Ning joins with Autumn (Jacky Cheung) and the rebel sisters Windy (Joy Wong) and Moon (Michelle Reis) to battle a demon that has taken over a mansion. And by demon, a mean a gigantic centipede that requires fighters to separate the souls from their bodies to defeat it.

Recently, Apple pulled the theme song of this movie from the Apple Music Store, as it features a reference to the masscre at Tiananmen Square Massacre:

“The youth are angry, and heaven and earth are shedding tears,

How did the rivers and mountains become a sea of blood?

How did the road to home become the road to ruin?”

Why would Apple pull a song that rightfully condemns China for their role in killing protesters? Well, you know how money works.

1991’s A Chinese Ghost Story III brings back the tree demon from the first film, a creature that is destined to return in a hundred years. This film is also about Monk Shi Fang (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) and Swordsman Yin (Jacky Cheung), named after the original Taoist. The tree demon also has a ghost in its thrall, Lotus (Joey Wong).

This is the kind of movie where towers rise to block out all the sun on Earth and Shi Fang’s body is coated in his own golden blood, which allows him to channel the power of the Buddha to bring the sun back. Basically, things get nuts.

If you fall in love with these movies, remember that there was a cartoon and a 2011 remake to keep you watching.


If you had HBO (Hey, Beastmaster’s On) or TBS (The Beastmaster Station) in the 1990’s, then you’re probably excited to read this. The Beastmaster series of three films ran pretty much non-stop on those channels, even if the first movie wasn’t a success.

Just like PhantasmBeastmaster came from the mind of Don Coscarelli. While he was only involved with the first movie, he set up the character of Dar (Marc Singer). Well, when I say came from the mind, Coscarelli loosely based his original story off of the novel The Beast Master by Andre Norton. In her book, the hero is a Navajo named Hosteen Storm and the story takes place in the future. Unhappy with the changes from page to screen, Norton asked for her name to be removed from the film’s credits.

The Beastmaster (1982)

Welcome to Aruk, where the prophecy of a witch reveals that the evil priest Maax (Rip Torn!) reveals that the son of King Zed (Rod Loomis, who was Freud in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) will eventually kill him. Although Zed exiles the villain, one of Maax’s witches transfers the baby who will become Dar the Beastmaster from his mother’s womb into a cow’s. Yes, I just wrote that. I’m still amazed that this happens.

Dar is rescued by a villager who raises him as her own son inthe village of Emur. This being a sword and sorcery movie, that whole town is destroyed by the Juns, barbarians under Maax’s command. Of course, Dar has been taught since childhood to fight and telepathically communicate with animals. As you do, you know?

Dar eventually puts together his animal familiar army of Sharak the eagle, Kodo and Podo the ferrets and a black tiger named Ruh. He also teams up with Kiri (Tanya Roberts), a slave girl, and even spends time wander amongst a half-bird, half-human race who let him go when they realize that he can speak to an eagle.

What follows are battles with Maax, an appearance by Good Times star John Amos, ferrets bravely sacrificing themselves, baby ferrets being born, Dar learning of his royal blood and birdmen battling barbarians.

Coscarelli didn’t have a good time making this, as he fought with the producers over editing and casting, such as his choice of Demi Moore over Tanya Roberts. Even sadder, Klaus Kinski was the original choice to play Maax!

Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time (1991)

Sylvio Tabet produced the original Beastmaster film, as well as Evilspeak and Fade to Black. This is the one and only film that he ever directed.

This time around, Dar learns that he has a half-brother named Arkon (the amazing Wings Hauser) who is working alongside Lyranna (Sarah Douglas, who was Queen Taramis in Conan the Destroyer and Ursa in the Superman movies) to take over, well, everything. They are almost captured by our hero until they create a portal that brings them to modern day Los Angeles.

Dar, Ruh, Kodo and Sharak follow and battle them over a neutron bomb. Obviouslt, Arklon has seen Ator 2: The Blade Master. Luckily, our hero gets to work alongside rich girl Jackie Trent (Kari Wuhrer) and Lieutenant Coberly (James Avery from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, continuing the lineage of black friends of the Beastmaster coming from sitcoms). Robert Z’Dar also shows up, which is always nice.

Jim Wynorski (SorceressChopping Mall) was originally going to direct and wrote a screenplay before Tabet decided to direct. Luckily for Wynorski, he lawyered up and got to keep his name on the movie and make some money.

This movie completely ignores that Kodo died. And Dar’s mark of the beast switches hands from the last movie. Basically, if you’re into continuity, perhaps the Beastmaster movies aren’t for you.

Beastmaster III: The Eye of Braxus (1996)

Dar is back one more time, this time trying to rescue his brother, King Tal (finally grown up but now played by Casper Van Dien from Starship Troopers). He’s joined by Tal’s bodyguard Seth (no longer John Amos, but now Tony Todd, which make me audibly shout at 3 AM and wake up my entire house), a warrior woman named Shada (Sandra Hess, Mortal Kombat Annihilation), an acrobat named Bey and Seth’s ex-girlfriend, a sorceress named Morgana (Lesley Anne-Down of all people!).

They’re battling the slumming David Warner as Lord Agon, who has been sacrificing youngsters to shave years off his life. You know, the older I get, the more this seems like a great idea, because most kids I meet today are clueless. He’s also trying to release the dark god Braxus, who looks like a human dinosaur.

This one’s directed by Gabrielle Beaumont, whose was also behind the movie The Godsend and the Jamie Lee Curtis-starring TV movie about Dorothy Stratten, Death of a Centerfold. It was written David Wise, who was one of the main writers on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, so that may account for this one being the most family-friendly of the three films.

Three years after this movie, a syndicated series called Beastmaster lasted for three seasons and 66 episodes. It changes Dar’s story a bit and features Daniel Goddard instead of Marc Singer.

Amazingly, none of the Beastmaster films are available on blu ray in the U.S., although the Australian based Umbrella did release the first film in June of 2018. The disk claims it’s region B, but I’ve heard that it works on American blu ray players.

If you’re looking for all three films, VHSPS has them available on their site, transferred directly from video store copies.

BONUS: Listen to Becca and I discuss the second Beastmaster movie, one of her favorites ever, on our podcast:


When I was 16 years old, I probably watched Phantasm II every single day. Honestly, I was completely obsessed with the film and its gliding metal spheres that promised destruction every time they whizzed past the screen. At that stage of my life, I hated where I was and couldn’t wait to be where I was going. Its nihilistic tone and brutal violence suited me just fine. In fact, when I finally watched the original film, I found it silly and stupid by comparison.

Now that I’m in my 40’s, I can see how totally stupid sixteen year old me was.

Phantasm (1979)

Directed, written, photographed, and edited by auteur Don Coscarelli, the original Phantasm makes much more sense if viewed less as a linear film and more as a collection of imagery, a “complete movie” to use the words of Fulci.

However, if we were to look at the basics of the story, they’d concern the evil Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), an undertaker who comes from a red dimension where he transforms dead people into dwarf zombies and commands an army of flying metal spheres. He’s obsessed with a young boy named Mike (Michael Baldwin), who is trying to convince his brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) and friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister) that their town is being taken over.

Sure. It’s kind of about that. It’s also a surrealistic rumination on how teenagers see death and the worry that they won’t be there for those they love. Or worse, that those they love won’t be there for them.

This is the kind of movie that has a villain who can also become a woman, the Lady in Lavender, who transforms back into the Tall Man at the moment the men orgasm. There’s some strange commentary at play here, right? It also has fortune tellers who tell you that fear is the killer, characters dying and coming back and characters that lived actually dying and chopped off fingers filled with yellow blood being transformed into winged monsters that can only be stopped by garbage disposals. And it’s also the kind of film that can completely stop the narrative for everyone to play “Sitting Here at Midnight.”

For all the narrative and psychological questions that Phantasm raises, I often wonder: exactly what kind of ice cream man wears a leather vest over his uniform?

This initial offering also introduces a trope that will endure for the rest of the series: at the end, when it seems like everything is making sense,nothing does and the villains end up exploding out of a mirror or from hiding, dragging our heroes back into the void.

I’ve watched Phantasm at least once a year since my first viewing and each time I watch it, I am struck by its strange power. Unlike so many of today’s independent movies, it looks and feels like a big budget film, except it’s been beamed to Earth from another dimension.

Phantasm is available on Shudder along with commentary by Joe Bob Briggs.

Phantasm II (1988)

Liz Reynolds is a young woman who has a psychic bond with Mike, the hero of the first film, as well as the Tall Man.  She finds them in her nightmares, where she begs for Mike to save her before her grandfather dies and is taken away by the villain.

We then see how Mike escaped the end of the last film — Reggie saved him by blowing up the house, but our hero has been institutionalized from seven years. He then must convince Reggie that the Tall Man really exists. He learns when the Tall Man blows up his entire family (yes, this movie has two exploding houses within minutes of one another).

It’s time for a road trip — not the last they will take — that takes them to Périgord, Oregon. Liz’s grandfather dies and her sister Jeri disappears. The priest who does the funeral knows all about the Tall Man, so he desecrates the body which rises anyway.

On their way to Périgord, Reggie picks up a hitchhiker named Alchemy who looks like a ghost they saw earlier. This is where you learn the lessons that Reggie will never learn for the rest of the series: never pick up hitchhikers, never sleep with strange women and every girl who will actually have sex with you is really the Tall Man.

Regardless, Liz arrives at the mortuary where she learns that her grandmother is now one of the Tall Man’s lurkers (she was taken by her grandfather, who we can also assume is part of the Tall Man’s crew). The priest gets killed by a ball, which is always nice. And then one of the saddest moments in the Phantasm series happens: the Tall Man blows up Reggie’s Hemicuda.

What follows are plenty of guns (a quad-barrelled shotgun!), a chainsaw battle, more spheres, the portal to the Red Dimension and the Tall Man pumped full of embalming fluid, which causes him to melt all over the place.

Alchemy has taken a hearse, but she’s really the Tall Man, killing Reggie (again, but of course, not really) and Mike and Liz convinced they’re trapped in a dream. The Tall Man utters the best line of the movie: “No, it’s not!” before pulling them through the back window.

While the lowest budget Universal film of the 1980’s, they also exerted a lot of control over the film. The, well, phantasmagorical style of the first movie was asked to be toned down with a more linear plotline and character voiceovers. Honestly, any time you hear a voiceover in a film, you should read that as a note from the producers saying, “No one will understand this if we don’t spell it out to them.”

Plus, no dreams were allowed in the final cut and a female romantic lead was created for Mike.  And most distressing, Universal wanted to recast both leads but allowed A. Michael Baldwin and Reggie Bannister (neither of them had acted in the nine years in between the films, with Reggie actually working at a funeral home as an embalmer) to audition for the roles they originated. Big of them. Coscarelli was allowed to keep one of them in a Sophie’s Choice and went with Bannister, casting James Le Gros in Baldwin’s place. Seriously, were the Universal executives supervillains? That’s some crazy thinking there.

Actually, the Tall Man has plenty of great lines here, like “You think that when you die you go to Heaven… you come to us!” This movie pretty much dominated my teenage years and nothing that followed it would ever top it. But hey — they took three chances trying.

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994)

Universal Studios was going to put this out in theaters before differences with Coscarelli, yet the direct to video release of this film was in the top 100 rentals of that year — ah, the magic days when video rental could help a movie succeed!

Right after the end of the last film, the Tall Man comes back from the Red Dimension just as the hearse with Liz and Mike in it explodes. Reggie finds that Liz is dead and saves Mike from the Tall Man by threatening to set off a grenade. The Tall Man just laughs and says that he will come from Mike when he’s well again. This takes two years of hospital time, as he wakes up after a dream with his brother Jody and the Tall Men in it. The minute he wakes up, his nurse turns into a demon with a ball inside her skull.

Soon enough, the Tall Man is back, transforming Jody into a sphere and taking Mike with him, sending Reggie on a road trip. He ends up in a small town where three gangsters — somehow this movie becomes The People Under the Stairs for a bit — throw him into the trunk of his car but are thwarted by Tim, a young kid who has been fighting the forces of the Tall Man.

Of note, Tim’s house is the same house from House!

Much like how Princess from The Walking Dead comic has to be directly influenced by  Alma from Warriors of the Wasteland, the way Carl Grimes dresses seems like too much of a coincidence when we see Tim in the film.

Reggie and Tim make their way to a mausoleum where they team up with Rocky, a tough woman who is good with nunchakus. They follow a whole bunch of hearses to the Tall Man’s base, where they rescue Mike and use the portal to cut off the Tall Man’s hands, which of course become monsters.

Mike then talks to his brother who is now a ball and learns that the Tall Man is making an army to conquer every other dimension, using human brains inside his spheres and shrunken down dead people as his slaves. “There are thousands of them!” yells Mike as the Looters wheel in Tim, who is saved at the last minute by Jody, still a metal ball. Whew!

Reggie and Rocky arrive just in time to shoot the Tall Man with a spear and liquid nitrogen just as a gold ball emerges from his head. Reggie destroys that as everyone learns that Mike also has a gold ball inside his head that turns his eyes silver. He warns Reggie to stay away from him and leaves with his brother, still a ball.

Rocky leaves just as Reggie is pinned to the wall by a ton of spheres. Just as Tim tries to save him, the Tall Man comes back to say, “It’s never over!” and pulls Tim through a window.

There was an alternate ending filmed where Reggie and Tim travel to Alaska, where they bury the Tall Man’s gold sphere in the ice and leave a plaque over it that says “Here Lies The Tall Man – R.I.P.” Reggie then exclaims, “Now, all we have to worry about is global warming” as they leave.

As a rule, the less money the Phantasm films have in the budget, the better they generally are. This one is considered the roughest by fans as it deviates so much from the storyline. I’d argue that these films have no real storyline and are all over the place, necessitating the use of stimulants any time you try and watch them.

You can watch this on Shudder with Joe Bob Briggs commentary.

Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998)

This one opens right where the last one ended, with Mike leaving town and Reggie trapped. The Tall Man lets him go to play one last game while the ball form of Jody becomes human long enough to tell Reggie that he has to search for Mike.

Reggie saves a woman named Jennifer from some of the Tall Man’s soldiers and just when it seems like our ice cream dude is finally about to get lucky, her breasts rip apart to reveal two silver balls — yes, really this happens — before Reggie uses a sledgehammer and his tuning form to stop her.

Mike has flashbacks to his younger days — using footage shot during the original Phantasm that was never used — to try and determine who the tall man is. He tries to kill himself, only to be stopped by the Tall Man. He escapes through a gateway where he meets a kindly old man named Jebediah Morningside, who looks exactly like the Tall Man (the old lady on the porch is supposed to be the fortune teller from Phantasm).

Then, Mike learns that he can move things with his brain. Jody finds him just in time to escape the Tall Man again.

Reggie arrives in Death Valley, fighting off some dwarves as Mike and Jody reappear, yet Mike tells him not to trust Jody. Mike and Jody then go through another gate back to Jebediah’s house, where they learn how he created the first interdimensional gate and became the Tall Man, who chases them back to another cemetery where Jody turns on his brother. Mike kills his brother with a sphere he built out of car parts and runs from the Tall Man.

If at this point your head is spinning from reading this, imagine watching it. This installment tries hard to keep the crazy narrative shifts from the beginning, constantly shifting the questions when you think you have all the answers.

Mike and Reggie use the car sphere and the hearse’s motor, now an interdimensional bomb, to destroy the Tall Man, who of course emerges seconds later from the gate, unharmed. He reveals that he is one of many as he removes the gold sphere from Mike head and leaves. Reggie arms himself and jumps through the gate, just as Mike has a memory of them riding in his ice cream truck together.

This installment’s budget was minuscule when compared to the last two Phantasm films. In fact, if you look at inflation, it was shot on a lower budget than the original. That’s why so many scenes are set in the desert. And the film wasn’t afraid to call in some favors, like the swarm of spheres, which was created by fans and KNB cutting Coscarelli a break on the cost of their effects.

Sadly, this movie could have been even bigger. Roger Avery, who co-wrote Pulp Fiction as well as Silent Hill, is a super fan of the Phantasm Series and suggested an epic ending called Phantasm 1999 A.D. This post-apocalyptic film would also star Bruce Campbell but cost way too much to get made in the pre-Kickstarter world.

Here’s the synopsis from IMDB, which will make you crestfallen that we never got this sequel: “The year is 2012 and there are only three U.S. states left. Between New York and California is the wasteland known as the Plague Zone. Unfortunately, the evil Tall Man controls that area. Since many people are dead, the Tall Man is able to make thousands of dwarf slaves for his planet daily in the Mormon Mausoleum. Besides him, the other residents are “baggers,” human-like creatures that are infected by the Tall Man’s blood, the dwarves, and, of course, the silver spheres, all trying to break out of the barrier that contains them and into the real world. A group of hi-tech troops are sent in to destroy the red dimension where the Tall Man gets his power. Reggie follows so he can find Mike after a series of nightmares he had. Will they be able to finally destroy the Tall Man for good?”

There’s one awesome scene in this one, where the Tall Man chases Mike down Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, which is completely deserted, an effect achieved by shooting it on Thanksgiving morning.

Oh yeah — where is Tim? The kid who ended up being a main character in the last film was to have been eaten by the dwarves in this one, but the budget kept that from being filmed.

You can also watch this one with Joe Bob Briggs on Shudder.

Phantasm: Ravager (2016)

Directed by David Hartman and produced by Coscarelli, this final sequel was done in secret and announced a few months before it was released. It’s the final word — one imagines — in the series, as it ends at least Reggie’s story. Or maybe it doesn’t. It’s hard to tell with Phantasm.

In development since 2004, this one starts with Reggie still hunting the Tall Man. Or perhaps he’s suffering from dementia in an assisted living facility. Or perhaps he’s at a farm where a potential love interest and everyone but him get killed by the Tall Man’s spheres. Or maybe he’s in a hospital in the 1860’s and there to die alongside Jebediah before he became the Tall Man or maybe even in a reality where he never becomes the Tall Man. And oh yeah, the Lady in Lavender shows up again.

The Tall Man then meets Reggie in 1979, where he tells him everything that will happen and offers to save his family if he never gets involved. He replies that he’d rather be loyal to his friends Mike and Jody.

My favorite part of this one is the gigantic spheres that are battling whole cities as Mike leads a hi-tech future squad (shades of the Avery script) against the Tall Man’s forces. Reggie has been in a coma for ten years (shades of Mike in Phantasm II) and now, the Tall Man has taken over the world.

The ending is up for debate: does Reggie die in the real world? Is that a dream? Is the reality where Reggie, Mike and Jody — joined by heroic dwarf Chunk and the surprise return of Rocky from Phantasm III — continue to fight the Tall Man’s gigantic spheres the truth? Are all of them?

As Reggie himself said when he was on with Joe Bob for the Shudder marathon, “Well, it’s Phantasm.” Eventually you have to stop asking questions and just enjoy. I guess it’s just nice to see everyone together again, no matter if the last film doesn’t live up to what it could be.

You can — you guessed it — check this one out on Shudder with Joe Bob Briggs.

In case you didn’t know, the Star Wars character Captain Phasma was named for this movie and Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams is such a big fan of the film he personally oversaw the new cleaned up version of the original film.

So many movies can cite Phantasm as an influence — Poltergeist 2, A Nightmare on Elm Street, One Dark Night and the TV series Supernatural has its protagonists drive around in a black muscle car…kind of just like Phantasm.

Its influence can also be felt in the world of metal, as Tormentor covered the theme, and the line “The funeral is about to begin, sir” has been sampled by the bands Splatterhouse, Marduk and Mortician. You can also hear the band Entombed play the theme at the end of their song “Left Hand Path.”

Someday, someone is going to get the idea to make an entirely new Phantasm. But it won’t be so strange and it won’t be so special. Until that time comes, we’ll always have five movies — one awesome, a few ok and a few stinkers that I still love — to enjoy. And remember: “If this one doesn’t scare you, you’re already dead!”

WATCH THE SERIES: A Nightmare on Elm Street part three

Where could a Nightmare on Elm Street go after five movies, a TV series and numerous appearances in pop culture? Freddy had gone from a horrifying villain to somehow, the hero of the series. Sure, this had happened to Godzilla and Gamera, but those monsters were always friends of children, not murderers of them.

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare – 1994

Originally, this film was going to be A Nightmare on Elm Street 7: The Ascension, but Wes Craven had the goal of creating a more intelligent meditation on the effects of horror on those who created it. He also wanted to bring Freddy closer to what he envisioned him as being in the original film, both in look and how he behaves.

Heather Langenkamp, yes played by Heather Langenkamp, played Nancy Thompson in the first and third movies in the Elm Street movies, but now she keeps dreaming that Freddy is coming for her, her husband Chase and her son Dylan (Miko Hughes, Gage from Pet Semetary). She awakens to an earthquake tearing through her house and a prank caller who continually keeps phoning in Freddy’s nursery rhyme.

After a talk show appearance with an in-costume Robert Englund, Heather learns that New Line Cinema wants her to work on a new Elm Street film that her husband has already been doing effects for. And when she arrives home, her son is watching the first film, screaming at her when she tries to turn it off. She calls her husband to help and as he rushes home, he falls asleep at the wheel and is killed by Freddy.

At the funeral, she has another vision of Freddy and John Saxon — you better believe I stood on my couch and cheered — tells her that she needs help. Dylan refuses to sleep and becomes obsessed with Krueger, which leads to her visiting series creator Wes Craven, played by, you knew it, Wes Craven.

Craven explains that Freddy has always been alive, a supernatural creature that attached itself to the films and was freed when Freddy died for the last time in the fifth film (perhaps it was just that he was upset that that one is so bad). Englund knows even more, but soon disappears from all contact.

After an aftershock to the earthquake, Heather takes Dylan to the hospital, where the doctor on call believes that he’s being abused. While police have her under custody, Freddy appears and kills the babysitter much like the first kill in the first film.

Dylan sleepwalks across a crowded freeway with Nancy in pursuit as the film grows more nightmarish — yes, I know that was super literal. After being injured saving him, Heather returns home, only to learn that John Saxon has now become her/Nancy’s father Don Thompson. She decides to embrace her old role and Freddy emerges into reality, taking her son into her world.

Working together, Dylan and Heather/Nancy shove Freddy into an oven — echoing how the parents of Elm Street stopped him in the original story — murdering him. They awake in bed, with a copy of the film’s script close behind. There’s a note from Craven, thanking her for defeating Freddy and playing Nancy one last time. Now, she has jailed the demon into the film’s world all over again. Dylan asks if it’s just a story and Heather says that yes, it has all just been a story. Yet that’s up to debate, as In the ending credits, Freddy Krueger is listed as playing himself.

If the end result is similar to Fulci’s A Cat in the Brain, this was not lost on the Italian godfather of gore (and emperor of eviscerated eyeballs). In his lone U.S. convention appearance (at the January 1996 Fangoria Horror Convention in New York City), Fulci would claim that New Nightmare rips off his film.

This movie was well-received by critics, but where can you go with Freddy Krueger? Simple. You make him battle someone else. 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason would pit the two horror icons against each other and the results were that each would have to reboot afterward. You can read our thoughts on this film from last year’s Friday the 13th Watch the Series post right here.

A Nightmare on Elm Street – 2010

Samuel Bayer directed the Nirvana video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” amongst literally hundreds of other videos and commercials. For his first movie, he was selected to remake the first Elm Street, a task that had to feel herculean.

Produced by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes team, the goal was to do what they had done for their Friday the 13th remake: take the best parts of each film and make one new story. However, they soon learned that going back to the first film was really the only way to go. They also made Krueger an actual child molester and not a killer, as well as making him meaner, with a look more like an actual burn victim.

Robert Englund endorsed the film (and Jackie Earle Haley playing Freddy), but Craven was not as kind, perhaps because he wasn’t consulted before the movie was made.

Kris Fowles (Katie Cassidy, Black Canary on TV’s Arrow) meets her friend Dean (Kellan Lutz, Twilight) at the Springwood Diner, but soon, Dean is asleep and dreaming of Freddy Krueger, who slices his throat. In our reality, Dean cuts his own throat as waitress Nancy (Rooney Mara, the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, who hated being in this movie so much that she nearly stopped acting) watches.

The children of Elm Street soon learn that they all went to pre-school together, where they were abused by — you guessed it — Freddy Krueger. Now, they’re all dreaming of the burned killing machine. Kris is soon killed by him, with her murder blamed on her ex-boyfriend Jesse (Thomas Dekker, John Connor from the Fox Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV show, who called this film a horrible mess). Of course, he’s soon dead in his jail cell.

Quentin (Kyle Gallner, American Sniper) and Nancy begin investigating and soon learn that once the parents of Elm Street learned that Krueger was molesting their children, they hunted him down and burned him alive. What follows is pretty much the same tale as the original, with Freddy being pulled into our world and a similar shock twist ending.

I really have no idea who this movie is for. You can just go watch the original to see a much better, more imaginative film. Bayer has a great visual style — he came up in directing with Bay and David Fincher — but between the CGI makeup for Freddy, the portrayal of him and the general been there, done that nature of this film, I was bored throughout. Then again, I realize that millennials don’t have as many DVDs as me or any interest in watching a movie from the early 80’s.

Platinum Dunes producer Brad Fuller has been quoted as saying that while the film was a financial success, the backlash didn’t stop for two years. The company wouldn’t make another movie until 2013’s The Purge and hasn’t remade a horror movie since.

While a talented actor, I just don’t like Haley in the Freddy role. Maybe its because he has referred to the original as, “The worst movie ever.” Or perhaps that’s just sour grape, as there’s a rumor that Johnny Depp tagged along when Haley auditioned for the original and got the part while his friend didn’t.

Want more Elm Street?

2011’s I Am Nancy explores Heather Langenkamp’s feelings about starring in the films and her role in the series.

Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street will be out later this year and is all about Mark Patton’s journey in Hollywood after making the second Elm Street. It looks really interesting and you can find the official site here.

Nightmares in the Makeup Chair is another upcoming film that is all about the process that it took to transform Robert Englund into Freddy every single day of filming. You can learn more here.

Beyond the Marvel comics we covered, Freddy has also appeared in comics from Innovation Comics, Trident Comics, Avatar Press and WildStorm Comics. There was also a crossover comic with Dynamite Entertainment that was all about Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash, which puts a dream movie into the hands of eager readers.

If you love Mortal Kombat, good news. You can play as Freddy in the 2011 edition of the game and its Mortal Kombat X mobile game. While he looks like the 2010 version of the character, that’s really Robert Englund providing his voice.

Freddy is also available for the slashertastic game Dead by Daylight (you can also play as Michael Myers, Leatherface and the Pig from Saw), which also came with a playable version of Quentin Smith from the 2010 film.

I almost forgot…Freddy also chased politicians on DC Follies…

He also was on The Goldbergs last week!

Thanks for joining us on our voyage through Elm Street! Do you have a favorite? Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments!

WATCH THE SERIES: A Nightmare on Elm Street part two

In our last post, we got into the origin of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. Now, sadly, we start to discover why — and when — the series started to go downhill.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child – 1989

What can you say about a movie where the director, Stephen Hopkins (Predator 2Judgement Night), says “What started out as an OK film with a few good bits turned into a total embarrassment. I can’t even watch it anymore.”?

A year after the last film, the returning Alice (Lisa Wilcox) and Dan (Danny Hassel) have been dating and seen no sign of Freddy until a shower turns into Alice going back in time to witness the creation of Freddy by the maniacs of the asylum. She tries to forget the dream as she’s graduating high school the next day, along with comic book lover Mark, model Greta (Erika Anderson, Twin Peaks) and aspiring nurse Yvonne (Kelly Jo Minter, Maria, the video store clerk from The Lost Boys).

The dreams don’t go away, with Alice witnessing the birth of a Freddy baby that makes its way to the church from the last film. He tells her he’s learned how to come back to life, just at the moment that he kills Dan. At the same time, she also learns that she’s pregnant with her dead boyfriend’s child.

No one believes that Freddy is after Alice, but Greta soon is killed by being forced to overeat in her dreams. Oh yeah — Alice is also seeing a fully grown boy she calls Jacob who she believes is her future son. Freddy is feeding his victims to her unborn baby — who yes, is also Jacob — to make him evil.

There is an imaginative scene where Freddy kills Mark within a comic book world, as well as the world that Freddy lives in now. But the ending, where Amanda Krueger seals away Freddy and Jacob decides to stay with his mother amidst strange puppet heads gets a little ridiculous. Actually, this entire movie is, supposing that teens we’d want to watch a movie about the terrors of teen pregnancy mixed with the terrors of being an Elm Street teenager.

Supposedly, there’s an uncut version of this movie that’s never been released that would change a lot of people’s opinions on the film. I’ll watch it again if that ever comes out. Yes, I know there was an unrate VHS release but supposedly there’s even more missing.

Maybe it’d be a better film if New Line had given the director more than four weeks to work on it. And get this — the poster was released before the producers had a clear idea what the movie was going to be about, other than the idea that Freddy would be a fetus and the title would be The Dream Child.

Somewhere between the fourth and fifth movies, Freddy’s Nightmares began airing on syndicated TV. The pilot episode, which tells Freddy’s origin story in great detail was directed by Tobe Hooper. After this, every episode would tell two stories about the city of Springwood, Ohio. The second tale in each episode would usually expand upon a character from the first story. Freddy may or may not be directly involved, but he’d appear in the beginning and end to do a wraparound sequence.

Directors like Tom McLoughlin (Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI ), Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers), Ken Wiederhorn (Shock Waves), John Lafia (writer of Child’s Play and director of Child’s Play 2), Dwight H. Little, who delighted my wife’s childhood with the fourth and part of the fifth segments of Halloween as well as Murder at 1600 and even Englund himself (he’s Freddy in every episode and let’s not forget that he directed 976-EVIL).

Let’s face it — Freddy was entering massive saturation, being on TV every week, appearing in a black and white Marvel comic book written by Howard the Duck creator Steve Gerber that was pulled after two issues due to internal concerns with its violent content, a video game from LJN (of course) and a line of toys that caused great controversy.

The Maxx FX line is one of sadness. Conceived by Mel Birnkrant, the creator and designer of toy lines like Outer Space Men and Baby Face.

Maxx FX was to be toys that had a special effects creator action figure as well as all of the costumes to make him into different monsters, from Universal classics to the Alien, Jason and Freddy. Check out the article on the creator’s site — where the videos and image above were taken — to learn more. I have the Freddy Maxx FX in storage, having found it for only $10 at a closeout store a year after it was to be released.

Thanks for indulging me on that trip to the memory lane section of the toy aisle. Let’s get back to the movies!

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare – 1991

Look, any horror movie that starts off with a Goo Goo Dolls song is just going to inspire my ire. But let’s try to be objective and not consider some of the better ideas for this sequel, including Jacob coming back to lead the Dream Warriors and a Peter Jackon screenplay where Freddy would stop being a threat and have the Elm Street kids even taking sleeping pills to screw with him.

Instead, this one starts ten years after where we left off, with Freddy having killed every single child from Springwood except for one teenager, John Doe. Waking up outside the city, he has no memories of why he’s there or even who he is.

He’s taken to a youth shelter, where he meets Spencer (Breckin Meyer), Carlos and Tracy (Lezlie Deane, 976-EVIL), who want to skip town. Part of Dr. Maggie Burroughs’ (Lisa Zane, sister of Billy) treatment is to take John to Springwood to cure his amnesia. The other kids all hide in the van and we’re off to the home of Freddy, just in time for John to have a nightmare and the van to wreck.

The abandoned house that the teens find turns into Freddy’s former home on 1428 Elm Street and we soon learn that Freddy has a child. After spending most of the film thinking John is the hero, he’s killed by Freddy, who reveals that he has a daughter.

Around here, Yaphet Kotto shows up and explains that he can control his dreams and how to defeat Freddy — drag him into the real world. If you’re screaming at your TV because this didn’t really work in the first film, you aren’t alone. And if Maggie being Freddy’s kid doesn’t hit you over the head with the sledgehammer of subtlety, then you just aren’t paying attention.

The last ten minutes of this movie — where Maggie goes into Freddy’s dimension to battle the dream demons that power him — were shot for 3D. Freddy gets blown up real good after Maggie gets off a kiss off line, saying “Happy Father’s Day!” Actually, no one feels good about this movie or this ending. Then again, the original theatrical version ran for 100 minutes while every home video release has run for 88, so obviously, big chunks were edited out of the film.

In the place of a decent tale, we’re given cameos by Johnny Depp, Tom Arnold, Roseanne Barr, Elinor Donahue and Alice Cooper as Freddy’s abusive father. That makes two 80’s slasher franchises that Alice has been involved with now.

This is the only Elm Street film to feature a female director — Rachel Talalay — and no female victims. Talalay would go on to direct episodes of Sherlock and Dr. Who, as well as Tank Girl.

Where can you take Freddy after all of these trials and tribulations? How can you make him more relevant? You have three choices, really. Go outside of the canon, a crossover or a remake. In the next chapter, we’ll discover how the Elm Street series would eventually do all three.

BTW — I figure this is a good place as any to mention some songs inspired by Freddy Krueger. Join me, why don’t you?

Also released on their album “Back for the Attack,” Dokken’s “Dream Warriors” is one catchy song and the entire reason I wanted to watch the third film. Don’t get me started or I’ll be singing it all day.

Prince Markie Dee of the Fat Boys Uncle Frederick has died and a lawyer claims that he has to spend one night in his haunted house to get his inheritance. If you ever wanted to hear Robert Englund rap, well, here you go.

Tracey Knight didn’t just star in The Dream Master, she’s also fond of singing this little ditty, which opens the movie.

Before Will Smith was a huge star, New Line actually sued him and his partner DJ Jazzy Jeff over this song and a planned music video, forcing a sticker onto all copies of their album “He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper” stating that this “[This song] is not part of the soundtrack…and is not authorized, licensed, or affiliated with the Nightmare on Elm Street films.”

Stormtroopers of Death was a group made up of Anthrax’s Scott Ian and Charlie Benante along with former bandmate Danny Lilker and Billy Milano, who likes Freddy so much that his next band, M.O.D. would record “Man of Your Dreams.”

Former KISS guitarist Vinnie Vincent got into the Freddy action with this song and video from the fourth film. Man, how about the days when bands got budgets like this to produce music videos?

An album packed with dream related songs, both originals and covers, this also has Robert Englund doing intros to every song. They’re all redone by studio musicians, the Elm Street Group.

Finally, one more PS — the image for today’s Elm Street series comes from Sungold’s line of bootleg Monster toys. Their version of Freddy has an even better name: Sharp Hand Joe! You can even get a t-shirt of this from the awesome folks at Pizza Party Printing!

WATCH THE SERIES: A Nightmare on Elm Street part one

I’ll admit it. I’m guilty. I’ve unfairly maligned this franchise because of where it ended up versus where it began. And it’s time that I rectified that situation. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been watching them all over again from the beginning and have come to change my opinion. Well, at least until the fifth film.

The original film was based on a lot of director/writer Wes Craven’s life, as well as Asian Death Syndrome, a medical condition that impacted a group of refugees who had left behind Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, yet were still trapped by nightmares of war. Many of them refused to go to sleep as a result and some even died while sleeping.

He also was inspired by a satirical horror movie his Clarkson University students made in 1968 which was filmed along Elm Street in Potsdam, New York. And the film’s villain, Freddy Krueger, is based on an incident where a young Craven felt like an elderly neighbor was coming after him. The name comes from a childhood bully that kept beating on Craven and it’s not the first time that he used that name, as Krug from The Last House on the Left is also named for this past teenage demon.

Freddy Krueger doesn’t look like any of his slasher brethren. With every other slasher wearing a mask, Craven wanted a villain who could talk and threaten his victims, while striking even more fear into their hearts with his burned and scarred visage. He also based his soon to be iconic sweatshirt on the pattern of DC Comics superhero Plastic Man, but changed the colors to red and green as he learne dd that those were the colors that clash the most in the human retina. And his weapon wouldn’t be a knife, but an entire glove made of them.

A Nightmare on Elm Street – 1984

Upon watching this again for the first time in probably thirty years, I was struck by how European the movie feels. Perhaps it’s the color tones throughout, suggesting the patina of Italian horror cinema (both Fulci and Craven cite surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel as an influence). It could also be John Saxon having lead billing. Or just that it doesn’t feel like any horror cinema that was currently being made in the United States.

The real villain of this piece is not Freddy Krueger — more on him in a bit — but the parents of Elm Street who have allowed secrets and their assumed authority over their children to do unspeakable and unspoken things. All of them are haunted by it, divorced, depressed and self-medicating with over-dedication to their jobs or their addictions.

There are stories that David Warner was originally going to play Freddy, but that’s been disproven. After plenty of actors tried out and failed to win the part, it went to Robert Englund, who darkened his eyes and acted like Klaus Kinski (!) to get the part.

The other feeling I have about this movie is that it owes a major debt — as all horror movies post 1978 do –to John Carpenter’s Halloween. Much like that film, the true horror happens within the foliage of the suburbs, with shadow people showing up and disappearing. Much of the action on the final night happens within two houses. One of the main characters has the ultimate authority figure, a policeman, for a father. And the cinematography by Jacques Haitkin glides near the characters and around them, much like the Steadicam shots that start Carpenter’s film.

The film starts with Tina Gray (Amanda Wyss, who puts the events of Better Off Dead into motion by breaking up with Lloyd Dobler) waking up from a nightmare where a disfigured man chases her with a bladed glove. I loved the way this scene looks, as you could almost consider Freddy off brand here, as his arms grow comedically long and he moves way faster than he would in the rest of the series. Yet by keeping him in the shadows, he’s absolutely terrifying.

When Tina awakens, her nightgown has been slashed and she’s afraid to go to sleep again. She learns that her friends, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp, who left Stamford University to be in this), Glen (introducing Johnny Depp) and Rod (Jsu Garcia, credited as Nicki Corri) have all been having the same dream. To console Tina, they all stay at her parent’s house overnight. But when Tina falls asleep, Krueger is waiting. Rod awakes to find Tina flying all over the room and up the walls — an astounding effects sequence in the pre-CGI era — and he flees the scene after her death.

Soon, Rod is arrested by Lieutenant Don Thompson (Saxon), Nancy’s father. Freddy now starts pursuing her, chasing her as she falls asleep in class (look for Lin Shaye as the teacher) and later in the bathtub, as his claw raises like a demented and deadly phallus between her thighs. Rod tells her how Tina dies and now she knows that the same killer is definitely after her (Garcia’s watery eyes and lack of focus made Langenkamp think he was acting his heart out; the truth is he was high on heroin for real in this scene). She tries to find the killer, with Glen watching over her, but he’s a lout and easily falls asleep. Only the alarm clock saves her, but no one can save Rod, who is hung in his sleep while rotting in a jail cell.

Nancy’s mom Marge (Ronee Blakley, who was married to Wim Wenders, sang backup on Dylan’s song “Hurricane” and is also in Altman’s Nashville) takes her to a sleep clinic, where Dr. King (Charles Fleischer, Roger Rabbit’s voice) tries to figure out her nightmares. She emerges from a dream holding Freddy’s hat to her mother’s horror. Soon, she reveals to her daughter that the parents of Elm Street got revenge on Freddy Krueger, a child murderer after a judge let him go on a technicality. In a deleted scene, we also learn that Nancy and her friends all lost a brother or sister that they never knew about.

While Nancy is barred up in her house by new security measures, Glen’s parents won’t allow him to see her. Soon, he’s asleep and is transformed into an overwhelming fountain of blood. Nancy falls asleep after asking her father to come in twenty minutes. He doesn’t listen and she pulls Freddy into our world. On the run, she screams for help until her father finally comes to her aid, just in time to watch a burning Freddy kill his ex-wife and them both disappear.

This is an incredibly complex stunt where Freddy is set ablaze, chases Nancy up the stairs, falls back down and runs back up — all in one take! At the time, it was the most elaborate fire stunt ever filmed and won Anthony Cecere an award for the best stunt of the year.

Nancy then realizes that if she doesn’t believe in Freddy, he can’t hurt her. She wakes up and every single one of her friends is still alive, ready to go to school. As the convertible hood opens up in the colors of the killer’s sweater, she realizes that she’s still trapped by Freddy, who drags her mother through a window.

In Craven’s original script, the movie simply ended on a happy note. Producer Robert Shaye wanted the twist ending so that the door was open for a sequel, something Craven had no interest in. Four different endings were filmed: Craven’s happy ending, Shaye’s ending where Freddy wins and two compromises between their ideas.

Obviously, the series would continue. And the follow-up would be one that left many unsatisfied.

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge – 1985

With Craven stepping aside, Jack Sholder (Alone in the Dark, which was the first New Line movie before the original Elm Street and The Hidden) was selected as the director and David Chaskin was selected to write this (it was his first Hollywood script and he’d go on to write I, Madman and The Curse).

Chaskin’s theme for the film — which until the documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy he would always say was just subtext — is the main character Jesse (Mark Patton) coming to grips with his homosexuality. Patton struggled with his anger over this film for years, as he felt betrayed as the filmmakers knew that he was in the closet. Between this role and playing a gay teenager in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, he feared being typecast at best and labeled at worst. Yes, in 1985, this was the world that we lived in.

Chaskin claimed in interviews that Patton just played the role too gay, but Patton bristled at that claim. The emotional stress led Patton to quit acting for some time to pursue a career in interior design. That said, Chaskin claims that he has tried to reach out and apologize to the actor over the years.

Director Sholder has said that he didn’t have the self-awareness to think that the film had any gay subtext, but an unfilmed scene almost had Krueger slide a knife into Jesse’s mouth. Makeup artist Kevin Yagher talked Patton out of filming that scene for the sake of his career.

Years later, Patton would write Jesse’s Lost Journal, a series of diary entries that would set his feelings — and his character’s — straight, pardon the horrible pun.

The sequel starts with a dream sequence where Jesse Walsh (Patton) dreams of being stuck inside a school bus with Freddy at the wheel. Jesse’s circle of friends include Lisa, who he’s friends with but too shy to ask out, and Grady (Robert Rusler, Sometimes They Come Back), a frenemy that seems more like a crush.

Jesse has moved into Nancy Thompson’s home, which was on the market for five years after she was institutionalized and her mother killed herself. His family has Clu Gulager from Return of the Living Dead as his dad, Hope Lange from Death Wish as his mother and a little sister that he bothers when she’s trying to sleep.

Lisa and Jesse discover Nancy’s diary, which explains how ridiculous the house is to live in. It’s always 97 degrees, birds attack you at will before they spontaneously combust and your parents accuse you of setting it all up.

Meanwhile, Jesse is dealing with all sorts of strangeness, like a sadistic gym teacher who really likes to go to punk clubs and get whipped. One night, a dream takes him to that bar and the gym teacher makes him run laps in the middle of the night. That gym teacher is played by Marshall Bell, who was George in Total Recall, the host for Kuato. Freddy possesses our hero and the coach gets clawed up in the shower. The cops find Jesse wandering the highway naked, which doesn’t seem all that weird to his mother.

Lisa and Jesse go to Freddy’s lair in an abandoned factory, then she has a pool party. Yes, I just wrote that sentence. At the party, they kiss and have perhaps the most awkward make out session ever, until Freddy causes changes in Jesse’s body that make him run to Grady for help. Yes, he gets so upset about making up with a girl that he runs to his male crush, only to transform into Freddy in an astounding practical effects sequences and kill Grady. He returns to the pool party and lays absolute waste to the partygoers as Freddy before getting chased off by multiple shotgun blasts.

Only Lisa’s love — and kisses — can bring Jesse out of Freddy. But it’s all for nothing, as the nightmare from the beginning becomes real and their schoolbus turns into a deathtrap. Even though their friend Kerry (who has the best outfits in the movie) tries to calm them down, Freddy’s claw emerges from her chest.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors – 1987

After the much-criticized second installment (I actually really enjoyed it, as it has a lot of European flair and its subject matter seems like a middle finger in the face of teenage boys who would seem to be its biggest audience), Wes Craven returned to write the inspiration for this script, which was originally about the phenomenon of children traveling to a specific location to commit suicide (think Japanese murder forests).

Frank Darabont and Chuck Russell took that direction and convinced New Line that the series should go further into Freddy’s dream world. The success of this film proved that A Nightmare on Elm Street would be a franchise, as this film made more than the first two movies put together. The team would go on to create 1988’s remake of The Blob before Darabont went into making Stephen King adaptions and Russell would direct The MaskThe Scorpion King and Collateral.

Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette) is obsessed with the abandoned house on Elm Street (which one assumes is the last house on the left), making papier-mâché sculptures (which makes for a great compressed credit sequence, showing headlines of what has gone on before) and dreaming of Freddy chasing her. She awakens from her nightmare to discover that she’s slicing her own wrists as her mother Elaine (Brooke Bundy) has to interrupt her sleepover date to save her daughter’s life.

Kristen ends up in Westin Hospital, run by Dr. Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson, Body Double), battling the orderlies and doctors who want to sedate her. Check out a young Laurence Fishburne here as orderly Max Daniels! She’s eventually helped by the new therapist — Nancy Thompson! — who recites Freddy’s nursery rhyme to her. Continuity be damned, Nancy’s grey streak is now on the opposite side of her head.

We meet the rest of the patients, who will soon become the Dream Warriors: Phillip the sleepwalker (Bradley Gregg, Class of 1999), wheelchair-bound Will  (Ira Heiden, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark), streetwise Kincaid, actress Jennifer (Penelope Sudrow, After Midnight), the silent Joey and Taryn, a former drug addict (Jennifer Rubin, who is also in a movie that totally rips off this one, Bad Dreams).

The Dream Warriors is pure entertainment. Freddy makes his move toward being more of a joking character while transforming into a snake, a TV set, a gigantic puppet master and even turns his fingers into drug-filled hypodermic needles. Kristen can pull the rest of the teens into her dreams, which they’ll need as Freddy and all of their doctors are pretty much against them.

Dr. Neil learns from Sister Mart Helena the true origins of Freddy, the bastard son of one hundred maniacs, and how he can stop him. Enlisting Nancy’s dad (John Saxon returns!), Neil digs up Freddy’s bones, which are still deadly, while Nancy tries to save as many of the kids as she can within the dreamworld.

The film puts an end to Nancy’s saga while setting things up for a new cast of characters to do battle with Freddy. At least that’s what you’re supposed to think, as A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master pretty much wipes the slate clean within the first ten minutes. We covered it not long ago, so follow the link to read more.

We’ll be back soon to cover the rest of these films! Don’t fall asleep!


Fright Night was the first modern horror film I ever watched. I remember painting in my parent’s kitchen and my father telling me not to be afraid and just watch it with him. It’s a great start — combining the Hammer films that I loved that didn’t scare me with new school special effects and metacommentary.

The very first film in the series, this one really speaks to me as I was part of the last generation to grow up with horror movie hosts on UHF channels. Sure, there’s Svengoolie today and some internet shows, but it’s not the same. Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) is one such host, a washed-up actor who was in a few great movies decades ago and now goes from town to town, playing the same old 1960’s Z list horror films, saying the same lines. 

The defining moment for him is that Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale, Mannequin 2: Mannequin on the Move) believes in all his bull. And when Jerry Dandrige (the untrustable Chris Sarandon) moves in next door and shows all the signs of being a vampire, Charley finds he needs Peter Vincent more than ever before.

Plus, you get a pre-Married with Children Amanda Bearse as Charley’s love interest and a pre-gay pornography/976-EVIL Stephen Geoffreys as Charley’s best friend/worst nemesis Evil Ed. And I just love Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark, House II) as Jerry’s thrall.

This is a movie made for those who love horror movies. After all, Peter Vincent is named after horror icons Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. Creator Tom Holland wrote the part for Price, but the acting great had stopped appearing in horror movies at this time in his career. As they made the film — and the sequel together — Holland and McDowall became life-long friends, with McDowall introducing the young director to Price, who was flattered that the part was written to honor him and thought that Fright Night “was wonderful and he thought Roddy did a wonderful job.”

He’s right — this is a movie that taps into the mind and heart of horror fans, as so many of us have wondered, “What if the monster — and the monster hunter — was real?” The lighthearted yet dangerous tone of the film is letter perfect. That scene in the nightclub, where Jerry takes on the security guard? As good as it gets.

Want to watch it now? You can catch it streaming on Hulu.

Also of note: I’m glad the original ending wasn’t used. It was to close with Charley and Amy making out with Peter Vincent coming on the TV to host Fright Night, saying “Tonight’s creepy crawler is Dracula Strikes Again. Obviously about vampires. You know what vampires look like, don’t you? They look like this!” Then, he would transform, look into the camera and say, “Hello, Charley.”

After the unexpected critical and financial success of this film, a sequel was inevitable. Holland and Sarandon were both making the first Child’s Play, so they couldn’t commit to the film, although the actor did visit the set. Stephen Geoffrey’s didn’t like the script, opting to star in 976-EVIL. Ultimately only Ragsdale and McDowall would return.

Three years and plenty of therapy later, Charley Brewster now believes that Jerry Dandrige was a serial killer and that vampires don’t exist. Now a college student with a new girlfriend, Alex Young (Traci Lind, who dated Dodi Fayed before Princess Diana), Charley sadly discovers that Peter Vincent is back to hosting Fright Night. As they leave Peter’s apartment, a new nemesis, Regine steals Charley’s attention. There’s even a new version of Evil Ed, a vampire named Louie (Jon Gries, who is great in everything he’s done from Joysticks and Real Genius to The Monster Squad and TerrorVision) who is making Charley and Alex’s lives hell.

It turns out that she’s Jerry Dandrige’s brother and here for revenge. Now, the tables are turned and Peter Vincent is the one who has to convince Charley that vampires are real. Even worse, she’s turning Charley into a vampire and has stolen the Fright Night hosting job away from Peter! There’s also a transgender rollerskating vampire, putting this movie years ahead of others in presenting LGBT roles (even if Belle is evil).

One small trivia note: the vampire form that Regine transforms into at the end was modeled after 45 Grave lead singer Dinah Cancer. If you don’t know her band, they sang the song “Partytime” from TThe Return of the Living Dead.

There’s no way that this movie could live up to the original, but it tries. It hasn’t really been seen much, as LIVE Entertainment barely released it on home video. Artisan Entertainment released it on DVD in 2003, but it’s been out of print for a long time and commands big bucks. You can often find a bootleg of the high definition TV edition of the film at conventions (that’s where we got it!).

Written by Holland and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace (Halloween III: Season of the Witch and the original It, as well as the writer of Amityville II: The Possession, a movie I never cease trying to get people to watch), this movie suffered at the hands of a very real tragedy.

McDowall loved playing Peter Vincent and was eager to bring Holland back to make a third film, so he set up a meeting with the two of them and Carolco Pictures chairman Jose Menendez. Legend has it that the meeting did not go well. Later that night, Menendez and his wife were infamously murdered by their sons, Lyle and Erik. When McDowall learned of the news, he called Wallace and said “Well, I didn’t do it. Did you?”

As a result of the murders, Fright Night Part 2 lost its nationwide release schedule and only played in two theaters before being released directly to video. All of the planned advertising and public relations were canceled as well, which meant that most folks didn’t even know it was released until it showed up on video!

If you thought Hollywood was done with Fright Night, you’re wrong.

Colin Farrell plays Jerry here as “the shark from Jaws.” Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays Evil Ed as a geeky kid who was once best friends with Charley, who is now one of the popular high schools (remind me to tell you about the child vampire that used to chase me through my grandparent’s backyard someday). And former Dr. Who David Tennant is more Criss Angel than Zacherley.

This is a film that I really tried to get past and enjoy, but I just couldn’t be entertained by it. I’m not the only one. Tom Holland said, “Kudos to them on every level for their professionalism, but they forgot the humor and the heart. They should have called it something other than Fright Night, because it had no more than a passing resemblance to the original. What they did to Jerry Dandrige and Peter Vincent was criminal. Outside of that, it was wonderful.”

That said, there is a nice moment where Chris Sarandon makes a cameo as a victim of the new Jerry. Otherwise, this one is mean-spirited where it should have heart. No part of it feels fun. I was shocked to learn that it was directed by the same person who made I, Tonya and Lars and the Real Girl, Craig Gillespie.

And if you think that one is bad…

This direct-to-video sequel completely ignores the first remake, instead being a simultaneous remake of the first two films. The Gerri Dandridge in this one is a Romanian history and culture professor who teaches Charley, Evil Ed and Amy when they take a class trip to Romania. And this Peter Vincent hosts a reality show where he hunts vampires.

For some reason, Fox greenlit the movie and rushed it into being at a record pace. The first draft was written in a week and it was finished in 23 days. If only it didn’t feel like it went on for 24. This movie is a complete waste of time and the name of this franchise. It was like they heard someone say, “Nobody can make a worse remake than the last Fright Night.” And replied, “Hold my cup of blood and apple.”

Here are some other spinoffs:

NOW Comics released 27 total issues of a Fright Night comic that adapted both movies, as well as starting new stories where Peter and Charley battled a spider boy, squid people, aliens, a minotaur and the Legion of the Endless Night, which eventually brings back Jerry Dandrige to begin a new army of the undead peopled by French prostitutes!

Terror Time put out a new Fright Night comic book this year, Fright Night: The Peter Vincent Chronicles, which explains what happened to Peter between the first two original films. You can grab it — and the Fright Night coloring book and the screenplay too — right here.

In 1988, an Amiga video game was released. Strangely enough, you play as Jerry, trying to make it through your home and transform people into vampires. Everyone from the original Fright Night appears in the game as enemies and potential victims except Billy Cole.

And in 1989, the Indian film Kalpana House was released. It’s a loose remake, with Peter Vincent’s character being a priest and plenty of musical numbers. Yep. Really.

Finally, there’s the exhaustive 3 hour and 37-minute documentary You’re So Cool, Brewster! The Story of Fright Night. In addition to pretty much everything you’d ever want to know about the original two films, the filmmakers also created a series of trailers for the fictional movies The Resurrection of Dracula, Psychedelic Death, I Rip Your Jugular and Werewolf of Moldavia, which starred Peter Vincent (Simon Bamford, Ohnaka from Nightbreed and the Butterball Cenobite from the first two Hellraiser films) and Christopher Cushing (Nicholas Vince, Kinski from Nightbreed and the Chattering Cenobite from the first two Hellraiser films).

Sadly, these trailers are on the hard to find physical release of the documentary. You can watch it on Shudder right here, though!

Last year, Tom Holland announced that he’s writing Fright Night 2 as a book, with the goal of obtaining the rights to the series by 2019 and making a new movie. In the past, he’s talked about continuing the series by having single-father Charley Brewster inherit his mother’s home with his two teenage children learning that something evil is in the house next door — Evil Ed, who is trying to bring Dandrige back.

Whew! Here’s hoping you enjoyed our look at the past, present and hopefully future of a horror classic. And if you haven’t seen the original sequel, hunt it down! It’s pretty good!


In 1990, Universal Studios bought the rights to Michael Crichton’s novel Jurassic Park before it was even published. The idea of dinosaurs being cloned and brought into our modern world just works.

Starting with 1993’s Jurassic Park and across several follow-ups, including 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Jurassic World 3, announced for 2021, people can’t seem to get enough of these movies. Sure, they’re all about the same thing — you can’t stop dinosaurs from being dinosaurs — but for some reason, people just keep coming back to see these movies.

Steven Spielberg first learned of the novel while working on the pitch for the TV series ER with Crichton. To even get the rights, Universal had to pay $1.5 million and a substantial percentage of the gross to the writer, a fee that he would not negotiate on. Even better, he got $500,000 just to adapt his own book for the screen. They were hungry for a hit and after the film did well, even hungrier for sequels. Well, they got them.

Jurassic Park (1993)

John Hammond (Richard Attenborough, Magic) and his company InGen have figured out how to clone dinosaurs from DNA trapped in blood trapped in bugs trapped in amber. This science is inherently bullshit, but if that’s going to stop you from watching these films, you better just quit now.

He’s created a theme park called Jurassic Park on Isla Nublar that’s packed with several of his cloned dinosaurs. Never mind that one of the raptors has already killed a highly trained handler. The park’s investors demand that dinosaur experts visit the park and certify its safety.

How are there dinosaur experts that know how real live dinosaurs would behave? I mean, putting giant monsters around humans who act like people in a theme park? How can that go wrong? I’m not a dinosaur expert by any means, but I can sit here and tell you that this is amongst the dumbest ideas ever concocted.

Those experts are chaos theorist Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum, who doesn’t just come from Pittsburgh but comes from our neighborhood), paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill, Possession) and paleobotanist Dr. Elliw Sattler (Laura Dern, Wild at Heart).

Everyone is amazed to see real live dinosaurs, which would have to be a dream come true. I mean, once I realized that all the dinosaurs were dead, I didn’t want to be an archaeologist any longer.

That’s when they learn that every dinosaur is female and the park is using select breeding. But Malcolm believes that nature will always find a way to thrive. Spoiler warning: it does, because they used frog DNA to fill in the gaps and frogs will switch gender to keep breeding. I love that they have scientists smart enough to handle creating living creatures from ancient DNA, but they aren’t smart enough to realize that things like this happen. I blame B.D. Wong’s Dr. Henry Wu, who will go on to make every more monumental boners in the series. In fact, he fucks up so much that they are forced to make him a bad guy to explain just how much one man can screw things up.

You know what would be a great idea? To bring kids around these uncontrollable killing machines. That’s exactly why Hammond’s grandkids, Lex and Tim, are flown in. The first trip through the park goes bad, with most of the dinosaurs not showing up, other than a sick triceratops. A tropical storm is on the horizon, so everyone heads back to the base. Hammond is upset, but Samuel Jackson’s Ray Arnold character says that things could have gone worse. Yeah, no shit it could have gone worse. You built a death trap thrill ride in a place with the worst storms on Earth and let your pre-teen grandkids romp around in it.

Meanwhile, Newman from Seinfeld has sold out Hammond and has messed up all of the parks security systems so that he can steal dinosaur embryos and put them in a shaving cream can. Yes, Michael Crichton got paid $2 million dollars for that. Don’t worry — a dilophosaurus sprays Newman, something it never could do, and eats him. He leaves behind chaos, with a T. Rex breaking through its fence and attacking everyone, including eating a lawyer while he takes a fearful dump.

This sets up the basic action of every movie that will follow this one: raptors chase everyone, kids are put in danger and a man that is the worst parent type ever learns to love those children. Along the way, anyone that’s been trained to deal with these creatures gets torn asunder.

In the end, the T. Rex eats the raptors and everyone leaves the island. In the real world, lawsuits would decimate InGen, but this is the world of Crichton and Spielberg. They’re coming back. You know it. I know it. They know it.

My favorite parts of this film are when Sam Neill treats children with utter contempt, including dressing down a rotund tween and explaining how a raptor would tear him into pieces and leave his intestines in the dirt. It’s heartwarming. I also love that William Hurt was offered this role and turned it down, refusing to even read the script.

The special effects in this film blew minds when it came out 25 years ago and they still look good today. You can poke some holes in the CGI but this was groundbreaking special effects back then.

As for me, I was very much in the art school of film when this came out, sure that Spielberg had sold out the promise of early 1970’s Hollywood as he embraced the blockbuster. Watching it years later with the benefit of old man hindsight, it’s a decent summer film, a rollercoaster ride that demands that you probably shouldn’t think about too much, packed with great effects and fun characters.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

There’s another island. Isla Sorna is where the dinosaurs were raised and also where a rich little girl wanders into a compsognathus attack. From this opening, you know that you’re in for a much darker ride. It’s one of those movies where kindly Spielberg decides that he should have made Night Skies instead of E.T. and indulges all the meanness he has festering inside upon his characters.

John Hammond’s nephew, Peter Ludlow is trying to use the island to fix the losses that Jurassic Park incurred. The old man has taken a dramatic change of heart, realizing that he should have never tried to open a theme park all those years ago and that these dinosaurs need to be protected. If you’re kind of taken aback by all of the character flip-flops here, buckle up. You know — because guys in their seventies suddenly stop being capitalists and suddenly start caring for the common man, like Peter on the road to Damascus. It can happen.

Ian Malcolm is the only one that comes back, save for cameos from his grandchildren. Turns out that Julianne Moore is in this, playing Ian’s girlfriend Dr. Sarah Harding, and that she’s already on the island. For the last four years, Ian has been discredited and disbarred for speaking out on Jurassic Park. The last thing he wants to do is go back, but to save the girl he loves, he has to.

Ian joins the team of equipment guy Eddie Carr and documentarian Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn), as well as his daughter Kelly who has stowed away. Just as they catch up with Dr. Sarah, a whole new InGen squad shows up, made up of mercs and hunters. Chief amongst them are Pete Postlethwaite as Roland Tembo, a big game hunter who dreams of bagging a T. Rex, Fargo‘s Peter Stormare as Dieter Stark and Dr. Robert Burke, a dinosaur expert played by Thomas F. Duffy (the demeted Charles Wilson from Death Wish 2!).

Tembo’s plan is to tie up a baby T. Rex and use it to lure in the mother or father. And InGen wants to get as many dinosaurs as possible so they can open a new Jurassic Park in San Diego. None of these ideas are good and they blow up in everyone’s face.

There’s a great moment in here where all of Malcolm’s team’s vehicles plunge off a cliff and some nifty action pieces, but it all feels rather disjointed. By the time everyone teams up and gets off the island, I was kind of hoping the film was over, only to learn there was so much more movie left. It’s a very late 90’s style of blockbuster — give it more running time and more story versus more thinking.

At the end, the dinosaurs are placed in an animal preserve free from human interference. Hammond steals Malcolm’s line, saying that “Life will find a way.”

Spielberg eventually said that he didn’t enjoy making this film. It kind of shows. He stated, “I beat myself up… growing more and more impatient with myself… It made me wistful about doing a talking picture because sometimes I got the feeling I was just making this big silent-roar movie… I found myself saying, ‘Is that all there is? It’s not enough for me.'”

That said, the movie did big numbers, so of course, it was time for another one. This time, Joe Johnson (Captain America: The First Avenger and The Rocketeer) would direct.

Jurassic Park 3 (2001)

The first film in the series to not be based on a Crichton book or directed by Spielberg, who saw the films as “a big Advil headache.”

I hate watched this movie, to be perfectly honest. Why would anyone go near this park? Why would anyone be dumb enough to parasail with pterodactyls? That’s what we call thinning the herd. Come on, people.

It all starts when Ben Hildebrand takes his girlfriend’s kid, Eric Kirby, parasailing with the dinosaurs, as mentioned above. However, they are pulled toward Isla Sorna and Eric’s parents, Paul and Amanda (William H. Macy and Tea Leoni) con Dr. Alan Grant into coming back to the island.

We learn early on that Dr. Grant screwed things up with Dr. Sattler and that she’s married to someone else. He’s a man alone, back on digs with an assistant that barely listens to him, Billy Brennan.

All the Kirbys say they want to do is fly over the island. However, the mercs on board knock out Grant and then it’s time to find Eric, who is actually the most resourceful of everyone.

Seriously, this movie felt like it went on forever, as they walked over the same ground trod upon by the other films. That said — the scene where Dr. Grant has the dream on the plane and the raptor talks to him? I could watch that over and over again.

There’s also a scene where everyone has to dig through dinosaur shit to find a satellite phone. That’s a first for the series and really the high point of this entire movie.

Jurassic World (2015)

14 years later and we have another sequel, planned as part of a trilogy. Set 22 years after the first movie, the theme park has now been open for ten years, but when a newly cloned dinosaur breaks loose everything comes full circle.

Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard, Lady in the Water), the park’s operations manager, has brought her nephews to the park. She’s too busy to keep an eye on them as the pterodactyl shit hits the fan. There’s also her boyfriend, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy), who has been able to train the velociraptors.

Meanwhile, there’s an InGen security asshole (as always), this time played by Vincent D’Onofrio, who wants to use those dinosaurs for military use.

Then there’s that big bad indominus rex, which uses DNA from all sorts of horrifying beasts instead of frogs, like raptors. Who made this thing? Our old friend Dr. Henry Wu.

The best part of this film is the end and I don’t mean that in a mean way. I loved how the original T. Rex comes back and all of the dinosaurs have reclaimed their island, having defeated the new beast. There’s even a gigantic mosasaurus that gets a crowd-pleasing moment right before the conclusion.

I love that one of the plans for this movie was to prove that humans descended from dinosaurs. That sounds like more my kind of movie. However, the last Jurassic Park film may be the best. Until the new one comes out this week. And of course, I’ll be there, ready to wade through the brontosaurus shit.

Yes. We reviewed Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Did you have any doubt?

WATCH THE SERIES: Creature from the Black Lagoon

There are no human beings worse than those that confront the Creature from the Black Lagoon, or the Gill-man, as he is sometimes called. All the creature wants to do is swim around, eat flamingos and lounge. Yet humanity wants to impose their will on him and only tragedy ensues.

Our clammy pal was the brainchild of producer William Alland, who was attending a 1941 dinner party during the filming of Citizen Kane (he plays the reporter Thompson in that classic) when Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa told him all about a mythic Amazonian race of half-fish, half-men. A decade later, Alland wrote the Beauty and the Beast-inspired The Sea Monster, which was expanded upon by Maurice Zimm, Harry Essex and Arthur Ross.

There’s some controversy over who designed the creature, as some say Disney animator Milicent Patrick drew the original look, but according to Andrea Ferrari’s book Il Cinema Dei Mostri. her role was “deliberately downplayed by make-up artist Bud Westmore, who for half a century would receive sole credit for the creature’s conception.” The bodysuit was created by Jack Kevan, while Chris Mueller Jr. sculpted the head.

When you see the merman on land, he’s played by Ben Chapman. When we see him swim, it’s Ricou Browning. The costume was rough to be in for an entire day, so we should really be thankful to these actors for enduring painful fourteen hour shooting days.

The first movie in the series, The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), opens on an Amazon expedition. A fossilized hand that shows webbed fingers points to a missing link between land and sea animals, so Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno, one-time rival to Rudolph Valentino during the Silent Era) leads an expedition to find a complete skeleton, which includes Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson, It Came from Outer SpaceHold That Ghost) and financial backer Dr. Mark Williams (Richard Denning, An Affair to Remember).

The first appearance of the Gill-man, as he frightens two assistants who then attack him, is startling. Even more so is how quickly he dispatches both men.

Soon, the expedition on the tramp steamer Rita is underway, with Lucas (Nestor Paiva, who also appears in the sequel) as the stereotypically coarse sea captain, joined by the aforementioned crew plus Dr. Edwin Thompson (Whit Bissell, I Was a Teenage WerewolfI Was a Teenage Frankenstein, the original Invasion of the Body SnatchersThe Time Machine and many more) and Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams in an iconic role), the girlfriend of Dr. Reed. 

Despite the fact that no one has ever returned from the paradise the natives call the Black Lagoon, the crew decides to go deeper into the Amazon. They’re stalked by the Gill-man, who takes notices of Kay and is caught in a dragline, escaping but leaving a claw behind.

Like Jason Vorhees with gills, our antagonist wipes out the members of the crew. Only fire seems to harm the creature, who is smart enough to block the exit of the ship with fallen logs. Mark becomes obsessed with capturing or killing it, leading to him trying to fight the creature barehanded and getting his money having ass handed to him. The creature then takes Kay to his underwater lair, where David, Lucas and Carl hunt him down and shoot him multiple times.

The movie ends with the creature slowly sinking, possibly dead. This will not be the last depressing close in this series, trust me. There’s a real undercurrent of longing from the monster in this film, of which Adams said, “There always is that feeling of compassion for the monster. I think maybe it touches something in ourselves, maybe the darker parts of ourselves, that long to be loved and think they really can’t ever be loved. It strikes a chord within us.” This same emotional tie to the creature was expressed by Marilyn Monroe’s character in The Seven Year Itch, who remarks that the Gill-man “just wanted to be loved.”

While we value today’s props and love horror, to show you exactly how much Universal Pictures cared for their real stars, Forrest J. Ackerman bought the mask and claws of the Creature’s costume from a young man. And how did that man get them? It turns out that after production wrapped on the three films in this series, they threw everything away. A janitor — the boy’s father — rescued the claws and mask, as he felt that they would make a great Halloween costume for his son.  thought the ensemble would make a good Halloween costume for his son. Other costume pieces were recently sold at auction by Bud, who was an assistant to Milicent Patrick, the original designer of the costume.

Originally shot in 3-D (although it played smaller theaters in 2-D), the original film was successful enough to merit a sequel, 1955’s Revenge of the Creature.

Somehow, the monster has survived and a new expedition — oh hey, there’s Lucas again — captures the Gill-man and brings him to the Ocean Harbor Oceanarium — thank SeaWorld — in Florida, where Professor Clete Ferguson (John Agar, Shirley Temple’s first husband, who appeared in tons of science fiction films along with many appearances alongside John Wayne) and ichthyology student Helen Dobson (Lori Nelson, who reprised the role in 2005’s The Naked Monster). Of course, Helen and Clete fall in love. Of course, the Gill-man falls for her, too.

The Gill-man eventually escapes, but he can’t stop thinking about Helen, even abducting her from a party. Clete and the police chase him down and, as is customary, gun our amphibian antagonist down. A slave to love, trapped until the end!

Despite being the screen debut of Clint Eastwood (in a blink and you’ll miss him appearance as a lab technician who misplaces a rat) and being shot in 3-D, Revenge of the Creature isn’t quite as good as the original. But it made the most money of the three, so that led to 1956’s The Creature Walks Among Us.

Jack Arnold, the director of the two previous films, graduated to Universal’s A-list and John Sherwood, a long-time assistant director, took over. It’s the only film of the three not to be shot in 3-D.

Despite how we saw the Gill-man get shot to death, he somehow survived and is somewhere in the Everglades. Dr. William Barton (Jeff Morrow, This Island EarthOctaman) is pretty much insane, a man driven to capture the merman and abuse his wife Marcia (Leigh Snowden, who was in the same Universal acting classes as Clint Eastwood, James Garner and John Saxon). The dude loses his mind any time she is near their guide, Jed Grant (Gregg Palmer, who appeared in many of John Wayne’s films).

For some reason, Marcia joins Jed and Dr. Tom Morgan (Rex Reason, who has a name like a pro wrestler or a Stan Lee character, but he was an actor who appeared in films like This Island Earth and TV’s The Roaring 20’s) on a dive, but she somehow goes crazy and overcome with the “raptures of the deep.” Also known as nitrogen narcosis, this creates a mental state similar to doing nitrous oxide. It causes Marcia to take off all her scuba gear and the guys have to rescue her.

Of course, the Gill-man follows her and he gets shot with a spear gun, to which he looks right at the crew and seems to want to say, “Come on, dude.” Then, they set him on fire!

This all leads to our underwater pal being in need of surgery from Dr. Borg and Dr. Johnson. And why do they do all this? They want to see if the Creature can help people survive in space! Well, all their work costs the monster his gills and now, he has lungs that can breathe our air. He also has more human skin, so he has to wear clothes.

The doctors try and get the Gill-Man to live among humans, but he gradually becomes depressed, staring at the ocean. He even tries to dive into it and swim back home, but he can no longer breathe as he once did. It’s horrible. Seriously, this movie makes me so upset, as they take everything from him and he gets nothing back in return. Even when he saves some animals from a lion or tries to attack Barton when he kills Jed in a jealous rage, everyone thinks the worst of our undersea friend.

At the end, he finally makes it back to the beach and just stares at the water, unsure what world he finally belongs in. It’s the most unsettling and upsetting of endings, on par with Son of Kong. There are no easy answers — man has put the Creature in this place and nothing can return him back to the home he misses so much.

Following his appearances in these three films, The Creature showed up as Uncle Gilbert on TV’s The Munsters in 1964.

Of course, a version of our clammy friend shows up in The Monster Squad. And there was also a stage musical at the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park. But there have been remakes in the works for years that have never made it to production.

Let’s start with the effort made by John Landis in 1982. He commissioned Nigel Kneale (who of course, wrote Quartermass and the Pit but also scripted Halloween III: Season of the Witch) to write a script that original director Jack Arnold would return to helm. According to Andy Murray’s Into the Unknown: The Fantastic Life of Nigel Kneale, the script had a pair of creatures — one destructive and one calm — battling the U.S. Navy. As the film was to be shot in 3-D, Universal worried about its budget and that it would compete with their release of Jaws 3-D, so the movie was canceled.

In the 90’s, John Carpenter, Peter Jackson and Ivan Reitman were all attached to a remake. And in the 2000’s, Gary Ross (Pleasantville, The Hunger Games) nearly got on board, which is interesting as his father, Arthur Ross, was one of the original film’s writers. 

Guillermo del Toro was also attached to the film for some time and wanted the movie to be seen from the Creature’s perspective and for him to finally have some romantic success. While the actual film never happened due to Universal’s rejection of these themes, del Toro saved these ideas to create The Shape of Water. Oh Universal. You had no idea what you had.

Breck Eisner (who directed the remake of The Crazies and was set to be crowned as Hollywood’s remaker, as he was due at one point or the other to direct new vesions of Flash GordonThe Brood and Escape from New York) was also attached for some time to an eco-horror version about the rainforest being exploited. The 2007-2008 writer’s strike halted this effort.

There was another movie called The Black Lagoon that was to come out in 2014, but that also failed to surface. And while the Dark Universe reboot of the classic Universal characters is in some doubt, one would think that the Creature from the Black Lagoon would show up if that ever gets any more traction. The appearance of a hand of our finny friend in the remake of The Mummy was just too much! Come on! Stop with the teasing!

What I didn’t know was that there was an Abbott and Costello Meet the Creature from the Black Lagoon TV show, created to promote the first film!

There were also two memorable appearances by the Creature from the Black Lagoon in arcades, thanks to Bally Midway’s Creature from the Black Lagoon and Monster Bash pinball games.

The former of those two machine has a startling hologram of the merman that pops up throughout gameplay.

In case it doens’t come through, I love the Creature from the Black Lagoon. I even had this Remco figure as a kid and would carry it everywhere with me.

I vividly recall the 3D reshowing of the films in the early 1980’s, too!

Our amphibian hero never gets the girl. Never gets the love he deserves. And never even gets a remake! But here’s to him! Long may he swim!


Based on the novel Airport by Arthur Hailey (whose novel Flight into Danger was adapted into Zero Hour! (as well as a later TV movie using the original title) which was later remade as Airplane!, which is also a parody of these films, but more about that later), these four films go from class to cash-in. And the worse they get, the more I love them.

The only constant throughout the series is Joseph Patroni, played by George Kennedy. His career improbably goes from a chief mechanic with a license to taxi planes to vice president of operations to consultant to pilot, surely a lateral and perhaps even regressive career path.

Despite having a big budget and high pedigree cast, Burt Lancaster, who starred in the original, claimed that the film was “the biggest piece of junk ever made.” He should have waited a few movies in to say that!

Airport (1970)

George Seaton (Miracle on 34th Street) directed the initial installment, which originated the entire big budget disaster genre that ruled the 1970’s. The actual story is simple — there’s a big snowstorm in Chicago and a flight to Rome is in danger, thanks to a down on his luck demolition expert (Van Heflin in his last role) looking to blow up the plane so that his wife (Maureen Stapleton, who won a Golden Globe for her work) can cash in. Along the way, we meet airport manager Mel Bakersfield (Burt Lancaster), whose is married to the airport over his wife (Dana Wynter from Invasion of the Body Snatchers) while a co-worker (Jean Seberg, the gorgeous star of the original Breathless whose support of the Black Panthers led to the FBI COINTELPRO hounding her for the rest of her short life) pines for him. Then there’s Vernon Demerest (Dean Martin), who is married to Bakersfield’s sister (Barbara Hale, mother of William Katt) but is having an affair with a stewardess (Jacqueline Bisset, The Mephisto Waltz). Then there’s Mrs. Quonsett (Helen Hayes, who won an Oscar for the role), an elderly woman who sneaks her way onto planes.

This big cast all interplays with one another, ending up on the seemingly doomed flight or aiding in its rescue. Will love win out? Will anyone who works in the airline industry get along with their spouses? Can Patroni shovel out a plane in time after being called in while he’s trying to enjoy a night of passion with his wife? Sure. Yes. Of course.

To get big stars like Burt Lancaster and Dean Martin, the producers gave that 10% of the profits after the film reached $50 million. With a US gross of over $100 million, the stars did more than fine making this one.

Airport 1975 (1974)

A small airplane crashes into a 747, taking out nearly the entire crew of flight 409, and only the stewardess can land the plane! Such is the plot of Airplane 1975, but that thin story doesn’t matter. You’re coming here for starpower and you’re gonna get it, baby!

Charlton Heston (the undisputed 1960’s and 1970’s king of the post-apocalyptic film, between Planet of the ApesSoylent Green and The Omega Man) is Captain Alan Murdock and he’s the only person who can save the day, with heroics that include being dropped into a plane that’s actually in flight! Karen Black (Trilogy of Terror, Burnt Offerings) is his girlfriend and the air hostess charged with keeping the plane aloft.

The doomed flight crew is played by Efram Zimbalist, Jr., Roy Thinnes from TV’s The Invaders and Erik Estrada. It’s shocking just how sexist they are with the rest of the in-flight crew and even more shocking just how much the ladies like it. The 1970’s were a doomed time when women just had to take the sexual harassment and like it, or return it back in kind.

Then there’s Gloria Swanson playing herself (Greta Garbo was the original plan) with Linda Harrison from Planet of the Apes as her assistant. Strangely, Harrison renamed herself Augusta Summerland for this movie.

And then there’s Myrna Loy as an alcoholic actress in the role originally meant for Joan Crawford! Three drunk guys (Jerry Stiller, Norman Fell and Conrad Janis) who would go on to be dads in sitcoms! Sid Caesar as a guy who can’t keep his fucking mouth shut! Linda Blair as a sick girl who just wants to listen to Helen Reddy perform as a singing nun! And Patroni’s wife (Susan Clark from TV’s Webster, who was spotted by the eagle eyed Becca) and son are on the flight, too!

Airport 1975 is big, bombastic and stupid. And it’s also awesome. It’s pure escapism and is devoted to entertaining you. It’s also a film packed with men patronizing women, calling them honey and yelling at them when they can’t get their shit together.

Airport ’77 (1977)

Jerry Jameson, the director of The Bat People, is in the director’s chair for the third installment of the franchise, which takes a turn into the fantastic. A private 747, filled with the rich and powerful, is hijacked and crashes into the Bermuda Triangle where it slowly fills with water.

This one boasts Jack Lemmon in the lead as Captain Don Gallagher and he pals around with Darren McGavin as they work to save everyone. Lee Grant and Christopher Lee (!) play a bickering married couple. Joseph Cotten appears, leading me to wonder when Dr. Phibes will strike. TV’s Buck Rogers, Gil Gerard, shows up. And hey look, there are Jimmy Stweart and Olivia de Havilland (replacing Joan Crawford yet again, just as she did in Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte and Lady in a Cage). And I bet Bill from Groovy Doom would never forgive me if I didn’t mention that Michael Pataki appears, too.

This one is…well, it’s certainly a lot more ridiculous than the previous entries. And if you think the next one is going to be better, have I got some news for you!

The Concorde … Airport ’79 (1979)

A few minutes into this movie, Becca turned to me and said, “There isn’t anyone good in this one like the others.” I disagreed. This film is filled with some of my favorite people and while it’s the worst film in the series, it’s also my favorite. If they ever make a blu ray of it, I demand to do a commentary track for it!

Directed by David Lowell Rich (Satan’s School for GirlsEye of the Cat), this film is quite relevant today, as it’s rife with corrupt corporations, drone planes and media scandals. You’ve got Robert Wagner playing a corrupt arms dealer who is in love with Susan Blakely, yet he keeps trying to kill her.

For the ladies, there’s Alain Delon as the dashing captain. And for the men, there’s Sylvia Kristel as the gorgeous airline hostess. And for the fans of The Omen, there’s David Warner as a henpecked flight officer.

There may never be a movie as sexist as this one. Just look at the way the character of Patroni has changed. He’s no longer a ground crew guy who will kick a pilot out of his own plane. Now, he’s flying the plane while making sexist jokes at every opportunity To wit:

Isabelle: You pilots are such… men.

Capt. Joe Patroni: They don’t call it the cockpit for nothing, honey.

Or when he asks Delon’s character about Vietnam:

Capt. Joe Patroni: Gee, I remember this Eurasian gal. She had these great big blue eyes. They called her the tarantula. You ever run into her?

Capt. Paul Metrand: No, I don’t think so.

Capt. Joe Patroni: You’d remember if you did. She was a real ball breaker!

That makes me wonder — how was Patroni in Vietnam? Wasn’t he already working in the Chicago airport back in the original? Well, now his wife is dead, his son is in college and he’s ready to party. In fact, when they get to Paris, he gets set up with a prostitute and has the night of his life. Is he mad when the ruse is revealed? Hell no! It makes him overjoyed as he slaps his pal’s back!

Then there’s Eddie Albert as a rich businessman and Sybil Danning as his wife, to which Patroni comments “She’s his fourth wife. He always was a horny bastard. There’s this story that back in the 20’s when he was barnstorming he made a bet that he could put it to this good lookin’ wing walker. He boffed her right out on the wing a thousand miles above El Paso. His ass got so sunburned he couldn’t sit down a week!”

What is happening with this film? I literally yelled at loud several times during it, shocked at how raw it seems in the world of political correctness. But this isn’t Blazing Saddles, a film that uses non-PC language for comic effect. This is a scummy cash-in, the final film of a once high prestige franchise. And I loved every minute of this strange bird!

Martha Raye gets locked in a bathroom as a plane faces turbulence! Jimmie “Dynomite” Walker smokes up and carries his saxophone everywhere! Cicely Tyson just wants to get her son a new heart! John Davidson performs his own marriage ceremony to a Russian gymnast! Mercedes McCambridge, the voice of Pazuzu, is in this! And oh shit, Charo is in the credits and has around thirty seconds of screen time, thirty seconds which had me screaming in pure joy!

Have you realized yet how much I adore this movie? How can you not love a film where a heat sinking missile is defeated by rolling down the window of a supersonic airplane and shooting a flare gun out the window? And after the plane went through such chaos between New York and Paris, why would anyone allow it to fly again the next day? Why wouldn’t security be increased? And why not crash land the Concorde in the alps? Why would they even get on the plane in the first place?

Even better, there’s a news report earlier in the film that sounds like it came straight out of The Simpsons, a strange piece of comedy in a film that has been serious so far. That’s because that voice belongs to Harry Shearer!

Obviously, we wouldn’t have Airplane! without these films. But after watching the last two films, it’s pretty hard to parody what has become a parody.

I lucked into finding the Airport Terminal Pack, a collection of all four films, for just $6. It’s literally the best purchase I’ve ever made in my life. If anyone reading this ever wants to come over and have me scream and yell through any of these films — please pick the last one — consider this a standing offer!